2006 Caribbean Series: Day Four

MARACAY, Venezuela–After losing an 11-9 thriller against Venezuela the night before, the Dominican Republic bounced right back by handling Puerto Rico 9-2 in Sunday’™s afternoon game.

“We never lost our spirit,” Dominican skipper Rafael Landestoy said about his team’™s bouncing back against Puerto Rico to go 3-1 in the series. “Today is a new day, and today we won.”

Aside from staying on Venezuela’™s heels, the Dominicans all but dashed Puerto Rico’™s championship hopes. The Dominican Republic did it with strong pitching and timely hitting, and Puerto Rico failed on both counts.

The Dominicans got things rolling with two runs in the second. Napoleon Calzado and Alexis Gomez both singled and later scored, Calzado on a Ronnie Belliard base hit to center and Gomez on Timoniel Perez’™s sacrifice fly.

Gomez and Perez teamed up again in the fourth, with Perez smacking a base hit to right field to score Gomez, who had singled to right field and stolen second. The Dominicans were cruising 3-0.

Going into Sunday’™s match-up between these island rivals, Gomez led his team in hitting and ranked fourth in the Series with five hits in nine at-bats.

Puerto Rico didn’™t give in however, scoring twice in the sixth. Ruben Gotay scored Alex Cora, who led off the inning with a single to right, and came home himself on a clutch Jose Valentin double with two outs.

Valentin and company have played hard all series, pushing the favored Dominicans to 11 innings in Thursday’™s series opener before losing 5-4. Though Puerto Rico battled to a 3-2 score going into the seventh yesterday, when the Dominicans finally pulled away, they did so decisively.

After losing 13 of their last 14 Caribbean Series games, Puerto Rico has played well enough to silence critics that prematurely wrote the team off.

Righthander Danny Tamayo quieted Puerto Rico’™s bats, giving up two runs on five hits through six innings. After a quiet six innings of their own, Tamayo’™s teammates issued a series of devastating blows in the seventh.

Showing their champion-style resolve and desire, Dominican Republic scored six times in the seventh with a little help from Puerto Rico.

With Erick Aybar at first and one out, Puerto Rico manager Lino Rivera took out lefthander Luis Arroyo in favor of righty Matt Hammons to face Miguel Tejada. But Rivera’™s move failed. Hammons intentionally walked Tejada after falling behind him, then gave up a two-run double to Calzado.

Stevenson Agosto quickly followed, and that’™s when everything fell apart for Puerto Rico.

Agosto walked Gomez, then threw his first of three wild pitches to Belliard, moving the speedy Gomez to second while Calzado stayed at third. Agosto threw his second wild pitch in as many batters against Perez, scoring Calzado and pushing Gomez to third.

Two batters later, Agosto threw a third wild pitch to score Gomez, who moved from first to second, second to third, and from third to home–all on wild pitches by Agosto.

Sandy Martinez wrapped up the Dominican scoring with a two-run double to score Belliard and Jose Offerman, who both reached base on intentional walks.

Aside from pitching, timely hitting made the difference. As Gomez put it after the game, “We did some things well, they didn’™t do some things well.”

And even though they trail the Venezuelans in the series, the Dominicans are about as loose as it gets.

“We don’™t take batting practice, we don’™t take ground balls,” Belliard said after the game. “You just go out there and play. We’™re not thinking about Venezuela. We’™re thinking about Mexico [today’™s opponent].”

• After a thrilling 11-9 victory late Saturday night against the Dominican Republic, Venezuela scooted by Mexico 4-3 to stay on top in the series with a 4-0 record.

A pitching duel until the ninth, Trinidad Hubbard got things going for Mexico, hitting a single and stealing not only second but third as well. With one out and Hubbard at third, Juan Cañizales blasted a home run over the right field wall to tie up the game at 3-3.

Mexico threatened in the tenth by putting men at first and second, but Hubbard grounded out easily to shortstop Alex Gonzalez.

And Venezuela took advantage. With the bases loaded and two outs, Alex Cabrera came up to face Mexico’™s Marty McCleary, who had pitched 2 2/3 scoreless innings until then. Cabrera smacked a ground ball down the third base line to score Luis Rodriguez with the winning run.

Going into today’™s action, Venezuela leads the series, followed by Dominican Republic at 3-1, Puerto Rico at 1-2, and with Mexico in last place and winless at 0-4.